Remember a couple of weeks ago when I mentioned a few recipes – braised short ribs, beurre blanc – that were easy to make from memory? I lied. I regularly make a half-assed version of beurre blanc, but later it struck me that I’ve made a real beurre blanc just once or twice, long ago.
Real beurre blanc is a voluptuous pan sauce made with the meat drippings, shallot, vinegar and wine reduced until thickened and enriched bit by bit with a vast quantity of butter. I usually deglaze the pan with wine and whisk in less than a tablespoon of butter. Not the same at all, I was reminded last week when I cooked dinner with a friend.
Warning: The following recipe could ruin you for simple pan sauces. It’s so good you’ll want to lick the pan. If you make it often enough it could ruin your health, too, because I wasn’t exaggerating about the amount of butter. I could not bring myself to whisk in the HALF POUND of butter called for in classic beurre blanc recipes. I cut the amount in half and still felt guilty. But boy, was it good.
A couple of tips: Whisk in the butter over low heat a few bits at a time, adding more when the butter in the pan is almost but not quite melted. Don’t leave out the half and half because it helps stabilize the sauce and prevent it from separating. Even with the cream, the sauce will separate if you don’t serve it right away.
For my pan-cooked pork chops I made a lemon beurre blanc with capers and a pinch of fresh rosemary. Sweet, roasted cherry tomatoes strewn over the dish balanced the tart lemon and capers.
The textures and flavors of this dish are wonderful.
PORK CHOPS WITH ROASTED TOMATOES AND LEMON BUERRE BLANC
For the chops:
- 4 bone-in pork loin chops, about ½-inch thick
- Salt, pepper
- Olive oil
- Flour for dusting
For the sauce and toppings:
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- 2 tbsp. chopped shallots
- 1 tbsp. Half and Half or cream
- 8 tbsp. cold butter, cut in small pieces
- Salt, pepper
- 2 tbsp. drained capers
- 1/4 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
- 1/4 cup roasted cherry tomatoes at room temperature (see note)
For the chops: Pat chops dry with a paper towel and season generously on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a large (preferably cast iron) skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, pour about 1/8 inch of oil in skillet and heat until oil shimmers. Dust chops with flour, shaking off excess. Brown in skillet on both sides, then reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking just until interior of meat is no longer pink. Do not overcook or chops will be tough. Remove from skillet, place on a serving platter and cover to keep warm.
For the sauce: Combine wine, lemon juice and shallots in skillet, raise heat to high and stir, scraping browned bits from bottom of pan. Boil until liquid is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Stir in half and half.
Reduce heat to low and begin whisking in butter a few pieces at a time, waiting until butter is almost melted before adding more. When half of butter has been used, season with salt and pepper and add capers and rosemary. Continue whisking in butter until it has been used up. The sauce should be very creamy.
Immediately pour sauce over pork chops and strew with roasted cherry tomatoes. Makes 4 servings.
Note: To roast tomatoes, slice about 20 cherry tomatoes in half and place cut-sides-up on an oiled baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, or until they have begun to dry but are still slightly juicy. May be made in advance and refrigerated or frozen.
A few words, if I may, about fresh-ground pepper.
I know I can be “snippy,” as one friend put it, and downright obnoxious on occasion. But I don’t think I’ve ever rudely added pepper to my food. Why do most recipes urge us to do so?
“Freshly ground pepper” is pepper that has been impertinently, snippishly ground. Pepper that is ground just before use is “fresh ground.” “Freshly” is an adverb. “Fresh” is an adjective.
Years ago I read about a ruling on the matter by the New York Times copy desk. Yes, the same people who refer to the singer Meat Loaf as Mr. Loaf on second reference. That foolishness aside, the Times copy editors are dead serious about language matters. When “freshly ground pepper” was threatening to eclipse “fresh-ground” in the 1980s, they had a pow wow and decided on “fresh.” I don’t know whether the Times has wavered in the ensuing years, but I have not.
I know this battle is already lost, as is my war on “healthy” food (it’s “healthful” unless those carrots have been doing push-ups). But I cannot read “freshly ground” without envisioning an obnoxious young woman flouncing around the kitchen with a pepper mill.
After decades of incorrect usage by almost every publication in North America, “fresh-ground” probably sounds stilted to your ears. I apologize, but I simply cannot go with the flow. “Freshly” grates like nails on a chalkboard. For better or worse, my recipes will never contain rude pepper.
Bring on the cronuts
Any cronut fans out there? I just read Kathy Purvis’ entertaining report on visiting the Manhattan bakery that started the trend, and now I’m Jonesing for a bite. One little bite. Where oh where can I find a cronut?
Calling all locavores
The Peninsula Foundation and the Peninsula Historical Society are becoming players in the eat-local food movement. They sponsored the multi-event local foods fair in Peninsula this summer, and now they are sponsoring a series of cooking demos and tastings at the GAR Hall, also in Peninsula.
The first Eat with the Seasons cooking demonstration will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 3 (tomorrow!) and will feature chef Ben Bebenroth of Spice Kitchen & Bar. The cost is $30. For more details and ticket information call 330-657-2528, but you’d better hurry.
From Geoff, New Franklin:
Your pizza sounds incredible but I’d like to make one suggestion. Try using Caputo “00” flour, available at West Point Market, instead of all-purpose flour. It is ground finer and produces a superior crust, both chewy and crunchy with a great flavor. After using this flour for pizza crusts, I won’t use any other.
Dear Geoff: You sold me. I usually use bread flour (I forgot to mention that in my recipe), but I’m going to try Caputo, especially after you told me a local artisan pizza maker recommended it. Thanks.
From Debbie Minerich:
Hi Jane, after a good friend shared her daughter’s suggestion with me, I no longer use cornmeal for homemade pizza crust. Shape your pizza on parchment paper cut to the size of your stone, then slide the parchment paper and pizza onto the stone from you paddle. I bake home-made pizza at 500 degrees and notice that the edges of the parchment that overhang the stone get a little “crispy” (my stone is round, as are the pizza’s I make). Have you tried tossing the dough to stretch it (like Lucy did in an episode of “I Love Lucy”)? I don’t use a rolling pin — just stretch the dough by hand and shape it on the parchment. I also use my son’s pizza dough recipe and make it in the mixer as you do.
Dear Debbie: Yes, I stretch my dough rather than roll it. I’ve tried to toss it a couple of times and got it into the air and back on my fists, but not effectively – i.e., it did nothing to further the dough stretching. It was entertaining, though.
Here’s one of my favorite potato recipes. The chicken broth adds a lot of flavor –so much flavor that I often leave off the cheese that the recipe calls for at the end, just to save a few calories.
- 1 large clove garlic, smashed
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 2 1/4 lbs. (about 6) waxy potatoes, peeled
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
- 2 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- Fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
- Pinch fresh-grated nutmeg
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Rub garlic all over the inside of casserole dish. Smear some of the butter all over the inside of the dish. Mince what is left of the garlic.
Using the thin slice disk attachment of the food processor, slice the potatoes. Transfer slices to a saucepan with garlic, remaining butter, broth, thyme, salt and pepper to taste, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and shake pan to distribute potatoes evenly. Bake uncovered, occasionally spooning some of the liquid over the top, until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 50 minutes. Sprinkle the cheese over the top and bake until brown and bubbly, about 15 minutes more. Remove from the oven and set aside 10 minutes before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Dear Kim: This is a nice change from the usual potato gratins made with butter and cream. It sounds delicious. I love potato gratins but had banned them because of the calories and fat. Thanks for putting potato gratins are back in my life.
From Molly Clay:
Hi Jane. I’m looking for a source for local duck breast. Have bought it at the West Side Market, and I know that Whole Foods, West Point Market, Heinen’s, and other upscale groceries should carry it. Put in a call to a local farm to see if they have it available. My other idea was to check Asian stores. Do you have any ideas? I paid approximately $12 per pound at the WSM, and it was excellent, but if I can get it cheaper I can indulge more often. Thanks! –Molly
Dear Molly: Call DiFeo’s on Grant Street in Akron, phone 773-7881. The store supplies many West Side Market poultry vendors. If it has wings, they either have it or can get it. I’ve bought not only duck but pheasant and quail there (along with rabbit). Their chicken and turkeys are excellent. They are shipped fresh on ice, not “hard-chilled” like most supermarket brands. I wish I could also give you the name of a local poultry farm, but my favorite duck and turkey farm stopped raising fowl.